The Double Act, & the Crown

Hang on, said the unicorn, what're you guys doing with that there crown?

What’re you guys doing with that crown? asked the unicorn.

Some short fiction for you, while you’re waiting for the turkey to defrost

I didn’t ask for this, you know. Charging all around town, fighting a lion, for a crown. A crown, I ask you! What’s a self-respecting unicorn want with a bit of a jewellry for a hat?

I already had plenty of street cred: magical horn; hanging out with beautiful young women; promoted from the minors of rhinohood, and narwhalness, to a beautiful white equine, with a hipster beard, eternal life, and, of course, that wondrous horn. What more could any mythical beast want?

No, I am not a dog. Yes, my Spockin' nose itches. Now leave me alone.

The eternal opponent: York, Nr Yorkshire

Of course, I did get something from my long-standing disagreement with a puss who’s too big for his boots. My image is displayed on every law court in the land, as well as lots of other public buildings, including quite a few palaces. Mine is one of the best known faces, and bodies, in this United Kingdom.

Sure, I have to share my glory with a big, dumb feline, but hey, every one loves a double act: Morecambe and Wise; Laurel and Hardy, cheese and pickle: we outshine them all.

Despair? Indigestion? Forgot to put the Lottery numbers on? Chatsworth.

Cheese sarnies, again? Bring me a pastrami on rye with Russian dressing, & make it snappy

It’s me who writes all our scripts: have done, for centuries. His paws are too clumsy, but I have the perfect pen, right on my head. It took a bit of working out, at first: how to dip my horn into an inkwell. It was the lion’s suggestion that I use birch bark for my first drafts, and calf, or pig skin, for the final one. As a life-long vegetarian, I found this rather distasteful, but he can’t help being a carnivore. Besides, it’s just another form of recycling.

We didn’t prepare the skins ourselves, or the bark, for that matter. We entered into an agreement with a tanner, and a woodsman. It was a symbiotic relationship: they prepared out paper, and skins, and we promised not to gore them, or eat them.

Morning sun: late December, 2015

Are these the trees which launch a thousand scripts? Winter, 2015

In the beginning, it was a rough, knockabout sort of act. We’d chase around a bit, then, “Give me that crown!” I’d neigh, in a way which was nicely nuanced between the noble, and the supernatural. “It’s mine, you horny son of a mare!” he’d shout back. Then, we’d charge about the marketplace a bit; stop; catch our breath – or, rather, Percy would, he’s not built for distance running – and then go through our lines all over again.

It seemed to tickle the peasants who lived in the town near our magical glade, although Tom the Tanner said they weren’t amused, just terrified.

Percy? Oh, that’s the lion. His full name is Richard William Percival Coeur de Lion, but after over 400 years together, I just call him Percy. He’s not such a bad sort, when you get to know him.

Yes, it’s the same lion. Is he mythical? Hard to say, but if he’s not immortal, he’s certainly had a good innings, with no sign of leaving the pitch anytime soon.

Alternative feline career: Sheffield, 2016

Alternative magical feline career: Sheffield, 2016

These days, as well as our double act, we both do solo gigs. Percy’s a regular in films, usually about some chap called Aslan, or in musicals, chiefly, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Wicked”, and “The Lion King”. I tend to do life modelling for tapestries, and paintings, though I’ve branched out a bit more, over the years: fantasy novels, and films, plus some merchandising. It can get a bit twee: cuddly toys, snowstorm paperweights, that sort of thing. I’ve got a new line coming out soon, called “My Little Unicorn”.

Not another lion! cried the unicorn: London, 2016

Another flippin’ lion! cried the unicorn: London, 2016

Anyway, by the time a couple of centuries had gone by, our quick and crude comedies had become a bit boring: to us, and our audiences. Percy said we needed to up our game, become more of a brand, and appeal to a more cultured, sophisticated clientele. That last bit makes Percy out to be a bit more literate than he really is. He learned words like “sophisticated” and “clientele” from me.

Percy may be more brawn, than brains, but we both wanted to move with the times. By the time the late 19th century came along, I’d moved from using more horn like a quill, to being a one-horn typist. A century or so later, I was one of the first magical beings in the country to try out a ZX Spectrum, as well as the Commodore 64. Percy’s no comedy genius, but he helped in his own way. Over the decades, he’s terrorized more people into building and painting scenery, and making props, than I can shake a horn at.

He does have a gift for sniffing out media opportunities. partly because he’s spent an awful lot of the late 20th and early 21st centuries going to the pictures, and watching the box. He’s a great cinema companion: he can empty a theatre really quickly. Percy loves action pictures, and horror, while I prefer rom-coms, and fantasy.

Did you know we were the first double act to appear on Channel 5? Or that we were extras in an upcoming production of “The Lion in Winter”? Unfortunately, we ended up on the cutting room floor. Which is a shame, as the location filming was nearly the death of poor Percy. He’s not really built for winter.

A field in winter: December 2014

A field in winter: December 2014

I didn’t ask for this crown business, but like a lot of things we don’t want, or go looking for, it’s turned out ok. We eat well, these days: no more black bread, or brown. It’s steak for him, and the finest vegetarian option, for me. At The Ivy, no less.

A unicorn, at last: drawing by Tom Brown, from “Koi Carpe Diem

Talk about the high life: we’re appearing at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium next year. As Percy says, we’re bound to be a rip-roaring success.

Wishing everyone in America a happy, & peaceful, Thanksgiving Day.

Tagged: Britain, Koi Carpe Diem, lions, nursery rhymes, short stories, short story collection, Thanksgiving, Tom Brown, unicorns, writing

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